Public anger has gripped Saudi Arabia after a prominent preacher who raped and beat to death his 5-year-old daughter was sentenced to a few months in jail and a $50,000 fine – known as 'blood money' – to compensate the victim's relatives.
According to Islamic law, the 'blood money' can be paid in lieu of the death penalty. The preacher's fine was reportedly half the usual amount because the victim was a girl.
Saudi preacher Fayhan Ghamdi, a frequent guest on Muslim TV networks, confessed to using cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, AFP reported, quoting activists from the group ‘Women to Drive.’
Ghamdi reportedly doubted that his daughter, Lama Ghamdi, was a virgin, and forced her to undergo a medical inspection.
In December 2011, Lama was admitted to hospital with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, and extensive bruising and burns, according to the activist group. Hospital worker Randa Kaleeb said that the girl's back was broken, and that she had been raped "everywhere."
The hospital told the victim's mother that her child's “rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed,” AFP reported on Saturday.
In October 2012, the girl died from her injuries. The following November, the father was arrested. The judge ruled that the "blood money and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lama's death suffices as punishment," activists reported.
The incident sparked public anger in Saudi Arabia, prompting an online Twitter campaign calling for more severe punishment for violence against women and children. The 'Women to Drive' campaign, launched by women's rights activist Manal Sharif, has demanded the creation of legislation that would criminalize violence against women and children.
The petition is circulating on Twitter under the hashtag 'Ana Lama' – "I am Lama" in Arabic.
The issue has gained widespread traction in Saudi Arabia, and authorities promised to set up a 24-hour hotline that will take calls regarding child abuse.